Man found burned to death in Northeast.

Posted: June 28, 2012

THE CHARRED BODY of a man found burning and tied with an electrical cord to a metal floor jack on the side a secluded Northeast Philadelphia street was so badly burned that police initially had trouble telling whether it was that of a man or a woman.

"He was burned bad. His fingers were burned off and his toes were burned off," said Chief Inspector Scott Small, who arrived at the scene early Tuesday morning not long after firefighters extinguished the blaze and discovered the body. "When I got there, he was still smoldering. … You couldn't tell what he looked like."

Firefighters made the gruesome discovery when they responded to a rubbish fire on an eerie, densely wooded stretch of Newtown Avenue between Adams and Godfrey just before 1 a.m. Tuesday. Small said bags of trash and other detritus dumped along the road were on fire along with the man's body.

The man's ankles were tightly bound with electrical cords, police said, and more cords were loosely wrapped around his neck and wrists, tying him to the base of a metal floor jack — usually used to raise cars — that weighed about 50 pounds.

Because of the severity of the burns, investigators and the medical examiner were unable to determine at the scene the man's age or race or whether he was dead before being set on fire. Investigators were awaiting the results of an autopsy on Tuesday.

Small said several surveillance cameras on Godfrey Avenue at the corner of Newtown may have captured a vehicle associated with the sadistic killing leaving the scene. Detectives were working on obtaining that footage later Tuesday. On Tuesday evening, the putrid smell of burning trash and flesh still lingered in the air as discarded yellow crime-scene tape marked the trash-strewn spot where the body was found.

This was not the first time a body was found on that desolate stretch of Newtown Avenue in Crescentville. Almost exactly five years before Tuesday's macabre find, on June 25, 2007, a group of children found the badly decomposed body of a shooting victim who'd been dumped there.

Contact Morgan Zalot at 215-854-5928 or zalotm@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @morganzalot. Read her blog PhillyConfidential.com.

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